Tag Archives: Photography

Giddy Enthusiasm

Sometimes things are happening in your class that keep you excited at all hours of the day. You see kids fully engaged during class time, and BIG AND- they are participating in an ongoing month long project outside of class as well. You watch as pieces of this project come trickling in at all ours of the night, on weekends, during other classes. You know you are not meddling and teaching too much; you can feel your scaffold strengthening as the students produce content that exceeds what you thought they were capable of.

I am engulfed in such a unit! It is wonderful. It has little to do with tech really, but the tech knowledge, skills and tools we have in place are making everything run smoothly. When people ask me how I use technology in my classroom, I am always a bit stumped. I use it the same way I do in my everyday life- to gather, create, share, capture life around me with a community of people.

In grades six, seven and ten we are in the middle of a viewing text unit. Grade six is watching How To Train Your Dragon, grade seven is watching E.T. and grade ten is watching The Wall. We began by discussing the idea of reading a film.  After deconstructing each respective film, we looked at various types of shots. Last week we moved onto looking at scenes as shots and students have begun to create their own 8-12 minute films.

It was at this point when I realized that we needed a quick detour into photography. I wanted the kids to realize the similarities between basic photography concepts and film making. After a quick lesson on how to take Great Shots, we began our Daily Shoot! This experience is what has me so excited. Over the weekend I was in Hong Kong for a conference, but I was thrilled to see at least 80% of my students participating in the exercise. They would go to this page, find the prompt, take their pic and post (with tags and titles) to their appropriate page.

Some highlights:

I am hoping that they will see that shots like these will make great openings to their video scenes. We have already discussed music and camera movement to heighten suspense and creating mood.

The Posterous gallery has been great as it teaches them how to sort and tag their pics, and it allows everyone to see what everyone else is doing.

Giddy is the best word to describe how I feel about this unit so far. Giddy and proud and excited and …..well seems like there are many words. But, what does the tech look like? How can I teach other teachers to do this? Not sure. We are using iMovie, Keynote, Posterous, cameras, blogs. We are filming, shootings, tagging, writing, drawing. It is hard to know where the tech starts or stops. It is hard to know if this is Art, English, or Film. We are simply caught up in a storm of creating. Unaware of where we will end up, we use whatever tools we need, we learn skills as they become necessary and hopefully we will have some pretty amazing films to share, but if not…if the films are only mediocre, we already know we have learned so much. And that is all that really counts.


Stain What You Find

Last time I did this, some amazing things occurred. It was January 31st, 2011 and I had just finished my first 31 days of a 365 Daily Shoot- an exercise where you try to take a photograph everyday for a year.  I was following “assignments” from The Daily Shoot (a now defunct website) and was quite pleased with my pics. I shared a quick post on my blog about the fact that I had finished my first month.

A few days later, Zac Chase told me that he had shared my pics with one of his English classes. The next week resulted in a somersault of poetry and music across continents. You can read about the events here and here. If you didn’t read about this story last year, I recommend you take a few minutes and read through the posts and comments.  It was a truly inspirational week of cool free flowing organic events.

Which brings me to this post. January 31st! Last time I only made it 94 days and lost the thread. I was working with a DSLR l and now I am almost strictly working on my iPhone. I have sworn that this year will be different. I will do my best to make it all 365…sorry 366 days of 2012.

Take a look at the shots and meet me on the other side for a little reflection on the process of daily photography in general and this batch in particular.

Is it obvious that is has been raining here in Jakarta. The images do not lie. It has been grey and wet this January. But as you can see the days are highlighted with color and light as well. Once more, I am in love with this batch of photos. I wish I had time to take a few of the photos and expand them into a more auditory experience. I invite you to take these photos and add your meaning and experience to them, as Zac’s class did last year. Let’s see if anything comes of them this time around.

The Process:

We do not tell stories through images. The images tell our stories on their own. When collected and batched and examined,  we can see patterns and narratives of our lives which we usually pass us by when we are busy with the act of actually living.  By documenting at least one photograph everyday, we can look back and notice the thread of who we were by what we saw and what we chose to capture.

In addition to the dissection of our lives after the fact, taking a daily photograph has helped me look more closely at my life as I am living it. Take today for example. It was nearly 3:00 pm and I realized that I hadn’t looked closely enough at my day as it was passing me by. I took a break from rubric writing and forced myself out into our campus. I strolled about simply looking. Examining and looking for something interesting, something beautiful to capture. Here is what I found:

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Intrepid Flame

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Intrepid Flame

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Intrepid Flame

I was thinking about starting some kind of daily photo assignment with my students. I think they will find value in being able to document their lives in Flickr sets. They will appreciate the downtime to wander around campus learning how to “look” at the world. Need to think more about this. Any ideas? What to do something collaborative?

If you are not trying a dailyshoot I highly recommend giving it a try. I thought that not having the structure of The Daily Shoot would prove challenging, but I am enjoying he freedom to snap at will and sort through what I have for the pic at the end of the day. In other news, I have been trying to keep an eye on The Daily Create over at DS106.

Creativity is not some romantic magical muse that only a few people can access. Creativity is the ability to fully immerse yourself in the essence of life and stain what you find with pieces of your self. The only thing you need to do to be creative is to be alive. Open yourself up to experimentation and see what happens. It may feel silly or not important, but only when you say yes can to every shot will you find the spark you need.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Intrepid Flame


Images Tell Stories

I am on an image kick lately, but here is what happened in my class today. It was powerful:

The grade sevens have been doing some research about Afghanistan for our upcoming book, Boy Overboard. We spoke in class today about the power of imagery to tell a story. We spoke about how giving a Pecha Kucha is not about delivering information, like a traditional report about food, currency, and population, but rather we want to strike a chord, make the viewers feel something. It is about emotions and forcing the viewer to think.

Here is an example. One student insisted on showing a flag. He wanted to use this:

We talked about whether or not this image was alive. Or whether it inspired emotions, told a story. The answer was a resounding no!

We searched on Flickr for some CC images and found these:

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by United States Marine Corps Official Page

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Abhishek’s Photo Essays

One student still wanted to just add the words Afghanistan Flag as the text. We agreed that we could only have three words. I told him to do some research and find out what the colors in the flag mean. We found out that the black is for occupation by foreigners, the red for the blood of the freedom fighters, and the green for Islam. The student decided to simply add the words Occupation, Blood, Islam.

We talked a bit about design, colors, and composition and came up with this:

I think this tells a much more interesting story than this:

Now we will work on what we will say for twenty seconds over the slide!


A Learner On My Hands

We’ve been doing a lot of work with images, media and language in our classroom lately, and I while really should be writing up those projects and getting my workshop (which will be on language acquisition and digital tools) for the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong ready, I have chosen to quickly jot down one of those, “this is why we teach moments.”

We were out in Peace Park, a stunning area on our campus, taking photos today. By we, I mean my 7th grade ESL class and me. They are working on a short image based slideshow which highlights verbs. More on that in coming posts. For now, all you need to know is that they will be asked to take several pictures of their everyday habits (we are studying present tense verbs) of things they do on any given day. But rather than have them take a series of thoughtless, average, and poorly lit snapshots, I took a lesson to talk about what makes a photograph interesting. We spoke of light and angles and subjects and basically concluded that to take a nice shot, we simply need to look closely, pay attention, and tell a story with our photos. Much like poetry I reminded them, but instead of words we use images. (Again this flip-flopping is the gist of my session: Language is about expression and the vocabulary of digital media is beyond words.)

After our brief chat on how to take a decent photo verses taking a million snapshots, we headed outside. I watched them crouch down under tables, get up close to flowers, walk around and really look around them. I gave them bits of advice, but tried to stay out of their way. I came across one girl who was taking an extremely close-up shot of a flower. I quickly showed told her about and showed her the Macro setting on her camera and explained that should help with the focus.

As I was walking away, she started to jump up and down and shouted something enthusiastically in Bahasa. What? What is it? I asked. She quickly became shy and said nothing. I asked again, pleading to know. One of her friends told me that she had said, “I am really starting to love photography!”

That was it! That is why I teach, because from that excitement we will make the connection to poetry and language and a love of learning. I am no longer dealing with a student; I have a learner on my hands, and there is very little you cannot do with one of those!